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Visitor reviews for Niseko Hirafu Ski Resort
March 18, 2013
heather mccalman from Australia
I have just read another review on the behaviour of some of my countrymen (and I do mean mostly males). I have to say that as a long term visitor to this resort (10 consecutive years) and as an Australian, I was really pleased to read the review and to see it placed where some who need to read it might. Thanks for publishing it so prominently.
Niseko Hirafu Ratings
Based on 24 votes. Vote
(1) At least one overnight stop, (2) requires a whole day, (3) requires more than half a day – you may have time for a few turns (4) arrive by lunchtime and ski all afternoon, (5) there is a main airport within an hour of Niseko Hirafu.
Public Transport: 4.6
(1) There are no buses or taxis to Niseko Hirafu, (3) there are slow or infrequent buses / trains available, (5) getting to the resort is easy with frequent bus / train connections.
(1) An ugly resort in a bland setting, (3) average mountain views and resort, (5) a spectacular setting and a beautiful / historic resort town.
(1) No places to stay in/near Niseko Hirafu, (3) a few places to stay in the resort, (5) a wide variety of accommodation suitable to suit all budgets.
Cheap Rooms: 4.4
(1) No budget accommodation available, (3) just one or two hostels so book ahead, (5) several cheap hostels and pensions available.
Luxury Hotels: 4.5
(1) No luxury accommodation available, (3) just one or two luxury hotels so book ahead, (5) several up-market hotels in Niseko Hirafu.
Ski in/Ski out: 4.6
(1) The ski area is located far from any accommodation, (3) a free ski bus takes you to the ski area in a short trip, (5) Ski-in ski-out accommodation is available.
(1) There are no child care facilities at Niseko Hirafu, (5) the resort has excellent child-care facilities including at least one reasonably priced creche.
(1) Occasionally gets enough snow for skiing, (2) is often closed due to a lack of snow, (3) occasionally suffers from a lack of snow, (4) rarely suffers from a lack of snow, (5) Niseko Hirafu is snowsure even in the poorest seasons.
(1) Niseko Hirafu relies entirely on natural snow, (3) there are just a few snow cannons, (5) there are snowmaking facilities on all pistes.
Snow Grooming: 4.5
(1) There are no snow groomers at Niseko Hirafu, (3) occasionally some pistes are left ungroomed and in a poor state, (5) all the runs at Niseko Hirafu are groomed daily.
(1) there is nowhere to ski when it is windy or visibility is bad and lifts often shut, (3) there are some trees for poor visibility but main lifts sometimes close, (5) Niseko Hirafu is mostly in forest where you can ski in flat-light and windy days, lifts rarely close.
Nearby options: 3.6
(1) If snow conditions are poor at Niseko Hirafu, it will be poor everywhere nearby, (3) there are good alternatives within an hours drive, (5) other locations on the same lift pass provide a rich variety of snowsure ski conditions.
Regional rating: 4.7
(1) Niseko Hirafu usually has poor snow conditions compared to other resorts in region, (3) has average conditions for the region, (5) usually has the best snow conditions in the region.
Lift Staff: 4.9
(1) The staff at Niseko Hirafu are rude or unhelpful, (5) lift staff at Niseko Hirafu are pleasant, cheerful and eager to help.
(1) the resort is always busy and there are usually long lift queues, (3) it is quiet apart from occasional weekends and school holidays, (5) it is uncrowded and lift queues are very rare.
Ski Schools: 4.8
(1) No ski schools available, (2) one or two ski schools but local language only, (3) a few ski schools but book early for multi-lingual instructors, (4) plenty of ski schools and multi-lingual instructors available, (5) excellent ski schools with friendly multi-lingual ski instructors.
Hire and Repairs: 4.7
(1) Nothing can be sourced, not even ski-wax or ptex. (3) there are some ski shops but rentals need to be booked in advance, (5) good quality ski equipment can be purchased or hired and overnight repairs are possible.
Variety of pistes: 4.4
(1) The ski runs are featureless and unvaried, (3) the ski runs are varied but not extensive enough for a week, (5) Niseko Hirafu has diverse and interesting pistes including forests and high alpine terrain.
(1) Beginners can only watch others ski and snowboard, (3) a few gentle slopes but beginners will get bored in less than a week, (3) Vast areas of gentle terrain.
(1) No intermediate terrain at Niseko Hirafu, (3) intermediate skiers will get bored after a few days, (5) vast areas of cruising runs.
(1) Nothing for advanced skiers and snowboarders, (3) enough steep terrain for a few days with some good offpiste, (5) Enough steep terrain and offpiste areas to entertain advanced skiers for at least a week.
Snow Park: 4.0
(1) Not even a kicker at Niseko Hirafu, (3) average sized park quite well looked after, (5) huge park area and expertly crafted pipes, jumps and boardercross trails.
(1) No off-piste worth mentioning, (2) off piste is out-of-bounds, (3) some varied offpiste that stays fresh for one or two days, (5) a vast array of off-piste routes that can stay untracked for several days.
(1) There is nowhere to go for cross-country skiing around Niseko Hirafu, (3) there are some cross country trails available, (5) the area features many spectacular and well maintained cross-country trails.
(1) No designated luge or toboggan runs, (3) there are toboggan runs that open quite often, (5) Niseko Hirafu has long and well maintained luge / toboggan facilities suitable for all ages.
Mountain Dining: 4.4
(1) Nowhere to buy food by the pistes, (3) some places to eat up on the mountain but they are often busy and expensive, (5) there is a variety of excellent mountain eateries right next to the slopes to suit all budgets.
(1) Bring your own food, there isn't even a shop. (5) A wide variety of places to eat and drink in the resort, from fast food to fancy restaurants.
(1) Nothing to do, not even a bar, (3) there are a few bars in the resort but nothing special, (5) clubs and bars stay open until very late and have a friendly atmosphere.
Other Sports: 3.0
(1) No sports facilities at all apart from ski lifts, (3) resort has just a small public swimming pool, (5) resort has all kinds of sports facilities, including a full-size swimming pool.
(1) Besides the snow and walking there is nothing to do here, (3) the non-skier will find things to do for few days but may become bored after a week, (5) the resort area is a fascinating place to visit, regardless of winter sports.
Winter Walks: 3.1
(1) Very limited walking and no snowshoe trails, (3) a couple of designated scenic walking/snowshoe trails, (5) extensive and diverse winter walking trails for all abilities.
Ski Pass Value: 4.3
(1) A 1 week ski pass is overpriced compared to the number of lifts available, (3) the ski pass is averagely priced and covers a reasonable number of lifts, (5) ski passes are excellent value for money and cover a lot of lifts spanning a big area.
Value (National): 4.1
(1) Overall, Niseko Hirafu is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the country and not worth the money, (3) overall represents average value for money, (5) overall offers the best value resort in the country.
Value (Global): 4.4
(1) Overall, Niseko Hirafu is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the world, (3) overall it offers pretty average value for money compared to resorts from other countries, (5) internationally the resort offers excellent value for money.
Based on 24 votes. Vote
March 14, 2013
Simon Leavers from Australia
Hirafu is amazing soft powder, unbelievable. Great restaurants and shopping. Would come back. It is great to see many cultures from the world skiing in the one place. All the staff at the ski schools were so friendly.
To another reviewer: You are right, some Australians are rowdy. However, this comes down to hard working, hard playing culture. Unfortunately, this seems to offend you. Niseko markets itself to Australians so we come here. Some Aussies probably watch snowboarding videos before they come and see the antics of those silly Americans and their crazy stunts. After reading your article I reflected on my day. I skied hard and then walked around the village with my family enjoying the shops. I even saw an Aussie in the pub drinking a pint at 4 pm, how uncouth. Once home we enjoyed a few drinks and some fine Hokkaido cheese and salami. We then had a bottle of wine over dinner where we discussed how the cavalier attitude of American bankers has caused many retirees in Australia to face a life of poverty! Also, how when you walk down Venice beach you are faced with people attempting to get you in cannabis clinic, in front of your children how disgusting. We also discussed how pleasant it was to ski in Beaver Creek and how polite the Americans were to us in our dealings with them. We also laughed about the wild party we saw near the children's ski school in Beaver Creek where teenage Americans were drinking and tops were coming of young girls in sub zero temps. What a colourful world we live in, if you do not like it get some black and white glasses.
March 08, 2013
The Dude from Australia
Brilliant 10 days of powder and I mean real powder. Not the clumps you get in Nth America or worse (Aussie powder). This stuff is smoke.
The food was great but wear your helmet at dinner so you can't hear the New Zealanders complaining about the prices. Down south at Hukuba for a season I was always fretting about the weather / rain but I don't think I cared once about the chances of snow in Niseko.
P.S Do the road trips to some other resorts like Rusutsu and Furano. It is truly a magical part of the world.
February 26, 2013
Utah from Japan
Great consistent snow, too many Aussies. I have tons of Aussie friends, but this is not your country. Show some respect for the Japanese and for the mountain sports. You don't have a mountain culture of your own so you lack any semblance of mountain etiquette, apparently, and mountain safety, more importantly. Lack of snow knowledge and a belligerent attitude in avalanche areas endangers everyone. I wish I was generalizing. The world is tired of the endless drunken show, tired of the white trash treatment of the locals in other countries, tired of the disrespect for other cultures. You have become the Brazilians of the mountains, and as a surfing culture, you know what this entails. If you don't like these comments, tough, do some self-policing. If these were Americans you would be tirelessly railing against them but you have become the obscene ugly white travelers, especially in the mountains. If even the Canadians hate you, wake up. Stop screaming English at the Japanese, be polite, learn something about snow, respect and don't endanger others, drop the drunken hooliganism. Had to be said.
February 08, 2013
Pablo from United Kingdom
January 2013, my mate & I spent a week in Niseko. It is not often these days that you get what it says on the box. In the case of Niseko we got more than what it said on the box. The weather forecast called for lighter snow than the preceding week. I was stressing as the arrival date approached. Hokkaido was snowy. That much I could see from the air, however, the incessant snowfall looked like it may be a myth. As the taxi approached the mountains outside Sapporo it began to snow. By Kutchan the snow was heavy. It didn't stop all night. 14 cm predicted ended up being over 50 cm on the floor. This was a theme every day. Maybe three times the snowfall predicted measured on the ground. The final day it was clear for fresh tracks then snowed for more than 24 hours. We went to lunch for 40 minutes and came out to fresh tracks. The place is insane. The amount of snow fall meant that though it is a small mountain, every square inch is boardable. It thus becomes a big mountain. I am saving my money up and heading there again. I have never had as much consistent powder in "all my puff". Face shots galore. Snow on your coupon every turn. Epic destination.
February 05, 2012
Dean from Australia
Well, just came back from another spectacular snow holiday in Hirafu! This is our fifth year now and the place just seems to keep getting better! Snow drifts up to your knees and ramen noodles up to your eyeballs. Love it. Already booked for next year!
February 01, 2012
fleabag from Australia
This was my seventh trip to Niseko. Need I say more!!
I have skied about twelve resorts in Hokaido and about seven in Honshu. Niseko still comes out on to for pow pow.
January 31, 2012
Rob from Japan
Amazing place, fresh powder everyday!! Will be back
January 22, 2012
John Ambrose from Australia
On my way home after two fabulous weeks in Niseko and I am already planning next year's trip. Excellent snow everyday with no queues for lifts (Chinese New Year had some traffic at the base lifts only) and wonderful people both locals and visitors.
Mountain facilities were clean, prices - well it is a ski resort town but good value for money. Mountain staff have excellent manners and you always get service with a smile and a thank you for using the chair lift.
The off-piste is wonderful and lasts a couple of days without snow and the groomed is great and the "out the gate" areas are an experience. A 10 out of 10 ski and snowboard destination.
January 21, 2012
Steve Lewis from Australia
Just had the most extraordinary week of skiing at Niseko. Just one blue sky day - the rest of the time, it just bucketed down. The quality of the snow, for someone who has only ever skied OZ, was fantastic. Loved the treks between the four resorts - and the Hilton onsen was a blast. Definitely will return. Steve
January 16, 2012
Sue from New Zealand
I found plenty of choice for skiing, especially with the free shuttle bus between the four resorts. It never stops snowing, and I have never seen so much snow! Limited visibility was a problem. There are lots of lifts and runs. Plenty of Japanese food available. However, most things are very expensive, and most places only take cash, even for big purchases such as the bus from Sapporo.
There are two convenience stores, but no supermarket. I didn't see anywhere you could buy meat etc. You would have to go to a nearby town to buy food, and so we ate out every meal even though we had cooking facilities. Overall, a good experience, but incredibly cold. Bring very warm gear.
January 06, 2012
Roisin Molloy from Australia
Third trip to Niseko. This place is awesome. Great food, great people, good beer, good lift ticket system and resort amenities very clean. Fantastic snow, what more could you want from a ski holiday?
January 05, 2012
AT from Australia
The snow here the past few days has been brilliant!
This place rocks! Best powder I have seen and I have skied some pretty awesome places!
December 28, 2011
PJ from Hong Kong
Niseko is a great place, fantastic snow and restaurants. Take the bus into Kutchan for yakitori, sushi and hotpot, cheaper and better quality than most Hirafu options. Been coming for 10 years, never an issue with other tourists from Australia or anywhere else.
December 25, 2011
Jukesy from New Zealand
Niseko is an all time powder haven, bring your snorkel for the neck deep days and a set of ear plugs to block out the Aussie rabble. If you like riding pow then this is the place for you.
December 23, 2011
John from Australia
I've been going for many years now - used to stay at Scot - there is still plenty of Japanese culture. Yes the bogans are at times (usually after drinking starts) a reason to hide your accent but I avoid bars etc.
Crowds only on Japanese holidays and even then the manners shown make it okay - Aussies are the ones pushing or running over your new skis or board. One run in trees or through the gates and you'll love the place!
So if your mate is a bogan leave him at Chintose with the duty free, bring your manners - learn some basics of language show some respect and it will be better than any Oz or Kiwi resort.
I got a freebie in Perisher last August and only boarded for 3 days - slushy sugary and they charge $100 plus to be on that crud. The worst day in Niseko is better than the best day in Oz!!
November 21, 2011
Jo Hunt from Australia
Niseko has it all. Great snow, food, accessibility and more than hospitable people.As for Australians fearing other Australians tracking through their snow, get a grip,there a more Australians skiing the U.S. and Canada than Japan.
November 11, 2011
jon from Australia
Please, stick to Niseko. Leave the other Japanese resorts to me! Follow the ozy sheep to the peak! offend the locals! don't learn a word of Japanese! You don't need to, Niseko has it all! They're even opening a newer lift so more people can track out the powder even quicker!
Jokes aside, this is a great resort. You can easily avoid the negatives (get a guide for day to show you how), it's not too expensive (yet) and snow? Yes it does. I personally prefer other Hokkaido resorts but this is a great place to start and once you get to know it, you can make the most of the positives and avoid those negatives. For the Niseko fans, give other resorts a go, they have so much on offer!
October 30, 2011
andy from United Kingdom
Just about to head back to Niseko for another season. The snow, people and food are all incredible! I want people to know that the earthquake in the spring didn't affect Niseko at all! The radiation levels have not increased and the powder is still going to be there! They are even replacing the Hirafu gondola with a modern 8 seater, this will be running this winter (2012)! This will crunch through the queues and is one of the first of many developments in store for the resort!
August 26, 2011
Dean from Australia
Having been introduced to Niseko by a friend in 2007, we have since been back three times (already booked for Jan 2012) and we have one word to describe the experience - amazing! We are a family who, like everyone else, doesn't enjoy boguns, we love friendly people, good food, snow to die for and an experience that is so different to our day to day routine that it inspires you in a way nothing else can. Niseko has so much to offer and it will only get better in the years to come as the infrastructure and variety of accommodation and entertainment improves. Don't take notice of the ski snobs who would prefer that you listen to their incredible snow exploits elsewhere in the world rather than hear about the true joy Japan offers. As Molly says.. do yourself a favour...you won't regret it.
May 06, 2011
Don from Japan
Just want everyone out there to know that the earthquake that hit down south had no effect whatsoever on the Niseko region. There have also been no issues whatsoever with radiation. Levels have not deviated from normal background radiation levels at all. We've also had no issues at all with power as the grid up here is separate from that on Honshu. Basically there has been no interruption to normal daily life at all in this part of Japan. So if you're thinking of heading back here you can do so knowing that everything will be running as normal with no issues regarding your safety.
March 25, 2011
Mick - Snowy Mnts Aust from Australia
Fellow skiers, I live and work in the snowy mountains in AUS. I have skied all over the world and have just returned from Niseko, which was our first trip to Japan. Lucky, we left two days before the quake. I only have two things to say about Niseko, I love the place and the people (Felling for them at the minute). I found the snow second to none and the skiing was spot on, the runs were excellent. Do yourself a favour and visit the place before passing judgement. I will be back, why travel forever, when you can just go to Japan. Love the place!
March 24, 2011
Dom-san from Austria
Hi everyone, I am an Australian resident who has spent four seasons in Niseko. The snow, food, atmosphere and people are great, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I'm a bit disappointed to see that so many people are complaining about the the so-called 'bogan' and 'drunken' Aussies, or the abundance of Australians in general. In four seasons I personally have not encountered any bad or violent drunken behaviour by the Aussies (or Kiwis), and the claim that it's like Bali is very exaggerated. Likewise, a lot of the foreigners that have bought real estate or have started businesses here are nice people who have fallen in love with the Niseko way of life. It's a very special place of the world where people from various countries (Japan, Australia, NZ, all over Europe, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA and more) can enjoy a good time together. There are always going to be people who's opinions of the place are negative or jaded no matter what. I don't understand what they're complaining about. Just relax...it's all daijyoubu!!!
Just for the record, 95% of the restaurants are Japanese! Hardly any western food in sight. Runs aren't crowded and it's great value for your cash. Come to Niseko : )
March 17, 2011
Michael from Australia
My first trip to Niseko as I only took up skiing five years ago when I turned 50. Last winter season in Victoria it seemed as if every second person you rode on a lift with had either been here or was going during Jan/Feb 2011. With some time available in March, I decided to head off to see what all the fuss is about. An adult son who is a builder decided to tag along even though he had never skied or boarded. One all day private lesson and he leapt from beginner to intermediate very quickly. Even though I had never been to Niseko I had travelled to Japan for work several times so was familiar with the culture and traditions of this wonderful country.
We mainly kept to Niseko Hirafu and were not disappointed. The longest wait we had for the gondola was 5 minutes and that was only because a ski school of little tackers arrived before us. The rest of the lifts were ski straight on and most days it wasn't unusual to share the run with three others. There was plenty of light powder snow during our stay and the days were generally blue sky. Neither of us were good enough to go off piste so we stayed on piste but there were enough trees adjacent to the marked runs to ski in and out of to make us think we were off-piste.
There are a huge number of Aussies working here but that didn't really detract from the experience and we certainly didn't run across any Aussie drunks, except perhaps on St Patrick's Day in the Irish pub in Hirafu. Go figure, Aussies celebrating an Irish holiday in Japan.
My previous experience in Japan helped with dining at night as I was able to find those little gems of restaurants that were away from the main area. A couple of stand outs were A Bu Cha 1 on the main intersection & Kabuki, an okinomiyaki restaurant but we ate at stacks of other great places.
We have already booked for March 2012.
February 24, 2011
Will from Australia
I've been riding in Japan now for close to 20 years, another ten before that. I'd ridden lots of places in Europe and North America before I ever got to Japan but Niseko (Niseko Hirafu) is special.
I'd agree with another reviewer's comment, but I'd also say that I never really see the crowds of drunken punters (just like I never see them in Oz) because I don't hang out in those kinds of bars! There's some great people living in Niseko running wonderful restaurants etc. Look around!
There's a reason that Niseko is among the most featured resorts in ski & snowboard movies - and it's not because it sucks. Many of the hardest skiing & riding guys and girls on the planet make a yearly visit because of the combination of snow, terrain, and culture. There's lots more to Niseko than what you'll find just off the Niseko United Lifts. Like No Back Country says, "Hike (or drive or sled or cat) and ye shall find"
Great skiing, amazing food, wonderful people.
What's not to love ?
February 23, 2011
No Back Country For Old Men from United Kingdom
Lots of lovely dry powder, but lots of Aussies tracking up the easily accessible stuff in a matter of hours. It's not unusual to see a snake of literally 100's of people hiking up to the peak in the morning. There is a lot to go around though. Hike & ye shall find ;-)
Often windy & they seem quick to close lifts.
Fairly outdated lift system, with few modern lifts. Queues in Hirafu (Niseko Hirafu) are commonplace. Niseko Village & Niseko Annapuri are quieter, but smaller.
Can be expensive, although not outrageous compared to Europe.
The only nightlife is in Hirafu, but it is fairly laid back. If you are looking for wild apres ski, look elsewhere.
February 22, 2011
Kose from Australia
Just got back from my first boarding trip to Japan, specifically Niseko (Niseko Hirafu) and instantly I was blown away by the consistency and quality of the snow.
But as soon as I started traveling around Hokkaido, I realized I was working way too hard for fresh lines back there. As soon as I got back to Niseko it just seemed way too hectic to worry about anymore.
Great mountain, too many people.
February 16, 2011
Adam from Australia
I first went to Niseko - Rusutsu in Feb 2005 with six mates and we have been back four times since. We have also skied Hakuba twice but I think the north island of Hokkaido has been more reliable for the powder. Yes, we too have seen the development of Hirafu become very westernised but it's not all totally bad. It's how you look at it, I guess. I agree with the comments from "Broad Meadow" and intend to explore many other resorts in Japan. If you look outside the popular main ones that are promoted at the ski shows, etc the choice is enormous. As for the "abundance of annoying Aussies" in Niseko, that can be anywhere in the world. Try surfing in Sydney these days at your local break with the "abundance of annoying Brits, Brazilians, etc".
February 09, 2011
Broad Meadow from Japan
A little perspective on the Niseko propaganda machine is probably a good thing.
There are over 500 resorts in Japan. The vast majority get similar and, yes it's true, better snow than Niseko (Niseko Hirafu). Been all over the world, skiing and think Niseko is the best out there? Try skiing all over Japan. The key is powder in Japan is amazing; it's not limited to Niseko. As for resort size, Niseko probably ranks somewhere in the middle. Terrain difficulty even lower than that.
Japanese culture in Niseko? That's like going to Euro Disney and commenting on French culture. With very few exceptions, from hospitality, to accommodation, to food the culture you are getting is a western based developer/marketers version of Japanese culture.
Niseko is only unique in that it caters to westerns. If you don't want to go out of your comfort zone it's a great place. You never even have to attempt a word of the language and the locals will put up with you because you are spending a fortune to be there. Personally, and you hear this a lot from ex-pats living in Japan, I like it because it feels like a trip outside of Japan without having to leave the country.
It was a great place that is losing its charm to massive developments a la Whistler.
Having said all that, it's still a good place for an introduction to skiing in Japan but don't limit yourself to going there year after year. Be adventurous and try something different!
February 04, 2011
Robb from Japan
Amazing snow and an abundance of annoying Aussies at Niseko Hirafu. Kind of a Noosa heads on Ice. Shame to see it each season swallowed up by very greedy western developers that say they are helping the locals and town,if that was the case they wouldn't have such a nightmare on their hands when it comes to clearing all the snow after a big dump.